The leader of an Assemblies of God congregation in Alabama credits God and the prayers of the congregants he pastors for his miraculous recovery from COVID-19.
Chris J. Summerlin, senior pastor of Georgetown Assembly of God in Wilmer, recently returned home after a 51-day hospital stay for the novel coronavirus.
“My recovery is still ongoing,” says Summerlin, 46. “I am still weak and need supplemental oxygen, but I am getting stronger daily. I am so blessed to have a church that stood by our side.”
Summerlin’s wife, Alicia, also found the experience to be transformational. During those 51 days, Alicia — a nurse — struggled with seeing the reality of the medical situation and the hope she had for her husband’s healing.
“They were some of the darkest days of my life,” says Alicia, 42. “However, the presence of God supernaturally carried me.”
Summerlin’s pandemic experience started when Alicia, an emergency room nurse, contracted COVID-19 in July. Although she didn’t require hospitalization, Alicia had an intense fever, aches, and pain for seven days.
“I had never been hospitalized for any reason,” says Summerlin, who was a little overweight but otherwise strong and healthy. “Therefore, I believed I was not susceptible to the virus. I was wrong. By the time Alicia had almost made a full recovery, I had started to run a temperature and I struggled to breathe.”
Being in the midst of his master’s degree program and needing to submit assignments almost daily, Summerlin put off a doctor’s visit for several days, believing he would get better.
On July 21, he collapsed at home. Alicia rushed him to a hospital emergency room.
For the next 35 days, Summerlin struggled for his life in a medical intensive care unit (MICU). During his stay, Alicia shared updates via social media. Being heavily sedated, Summerlin does not remember his time in MICU.
“There were days where the doctor shared with my wife that they had done all they could do, and I was not getting better,” he says. “The doctor shared that I had the worst lungs he had seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two people with COVID-19 died across the hall from me. But God, through His mercy, grace, and the prayers of so many, did not allow me to die.”
Several powerful “God moments” occurred during the hospitalization. Alicia — prohibited from visiting — called Tabbie Trotter, her prayer partner and the wife of Georgetown AG’s children’s pastor, Marshall Trotter. Summerlin has been lead pastor or the church in Wilmar, which is just west of Mobile, since 2014.
Alicia Trotter prayed explicitly that Summerlin would recover with nothing more than a scar and testimony, as well as for a Christian doctor or nurse to go by his room to pray over him. The next day, Alicia received a phone call from a Christian woman working as a MICU nurse at the hospital. She confided that she paused to pray outside the door of his room during her shifts.
Georgetown Assembly organized a prayer vigil in the hospital parking lot. The MICU charge nurse and unit placed a poster that read “God Is Able” in a window next to Summerlin’s room for intercessors to see. Unknown to the charge nurse, Summerlin had planned to preach a sermon the Sunday before his COVID-19 diagnosis titled “God Is Able.”
“This was such a comforting confirmation to my wife that God was in total control and that I would be all right,” Summerlin says of the nurse’s message. Hundreds of church adherents, friends, and loved ones prayed and fasted on behalf of Summerlin. He slowly began to get better.
On Aug. 26, he shifted to long-term acute care to begin a 28-day recovery process. That didn’t mean he had no more health challenges. Summerlin still had a tracheostomy tube, breathed with help from a ventilator, and couldn’t walk. In his weakened state he had lost 51 pounds.
“However, again through the power of prayer, I recovered faster and more vitally than any of the nurses and doctors had seen,” he says.
Within seven days, the tracheostomy came out. Summerlin began strolling the halls with a walker and eating solid foods. On Sept. 9, he went home to be with his wife and three children for the first time in 51 days.
“It really drew our church deeper in worship and prayer,” Marshall Trotter says. “For most, I do not think they have cried out to heaven as much as they did during those two months. We needed a miracle and God delivered.”